INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Sunday's Super Bowl game is not the only reason Indiana is garnering national attention, as many look to model the state's efforts to fight human trafficking, according to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), joined Zoeller today in visiting a command center in Indianapolis established specifically to combat human trafficking throughout the weekend.
"I am glad to extend our Hoosier hospitality to my colleague, Attorney General Rob McKenna in his visit to our state and to witness first-hand how agencies, nonprofit organizations and communities mobilized to combat human trafficking and to assist victims," Zoeller said. "These efforts have been unprecedented and we look forward to keeping the momentum going even after the Super Bowl has left our state."
McKenna's presidential initiative, "Pillars of Hope," is a national effort to shed light on human trafficking crimes, hold traffickers accountable, mobilize communities to care for victims and reduce the demand for commercial sex.
"Today's effort is an excellent example of community organizations, law enforcement, business and government working together to curb modern day slavery," McKenna said. "The fight against human trafficking is at a tipping point. When we rescue even one victim, when we persuade even one person to recognize sex trafficking as a crime, when we prosecute even one trafficker, we will have tipped this problem toward ultimate success."
As part of the "Pillars of Hope" initiative, Indiana's Attorney General was tasked with developing ways to curb the demand and spread awareness about the crime's impact. Zoeller helped create a public pledge to promote zero tolerance for the sex industry and launched the "Don't Buy the Lie" campaign that aims to inform the public that purchasing sex is not a victimless crime and it fuels human trafficking.
This is the third Super Bowl where nonprofit organizations have teamed up to combat human trafficking in the host city as part of the "Tackle the Trafficker" initiative. This year, a command center was set up in Indianapolis to monitor and investigate whether prostitution and human trafficking crimes were being committed and if so, help connect the dots with missing person cases.
These out-of-state volunteers include those from human trafficking task forces in Oregon and Florida, as well as nonprofits focused on missing and exploited children. Nearly 20 representatives from these groups will work and sleep at the command center until Monday.
Brad Dennis, director of Search Operations for KlaasKids Foundation, and Ana Rodriguez, who serves on the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, started "Tackle the Trafficker" initiative. Both said this is the first time in three years the effort has been carried through with such support.
"We are in fact gaining ground on this battle," Dennis said. "It is clear that compared with any other Super Bowl, with Indiana's efforts there has been a marked decrease in the street level trafficking due to the publicity and the Indiana Attorney General's anti-demand campaign."
"The only way we are going to fight human trafficking is with collaboration," Rodriguez said. "People are still learning about what human trafficking is and traffickers keep changing the game. That's why it is imperative to promote awareness, education and prevention if we are to make a difference."
Zoeller serves as the co-chair of the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) task force. The task force has trained more than 2,000 persons since July 2011, including law enforcement, cab drivers, first responders, medical professionals, hospitality workers and others so that they can identify human trafficking victims and know how to respond. IPATH includes representatives from 60 Indiana groups including government entities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
Recently, Zoeller helped successfully push for legislative changes which are now in effect making it easier to prosecute traffickers and rescue victims.
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